“How to thrive spiritually”

Quiet time coaching: episode 61

On a recent tour of  Israel, I spent some good time with my old friend Douglas Jacoby.  We discussed the Psalms and he mentioned the book he’s written on them called “Thrive!”. I bought a copy and started reading it straight away. It’s been blessing my spiritual life and I thought I’d bring you a brief description and review of the book for today’s quiet time coaching episode.

Please let me know what you think of Psalms, books on the Psalms, and Douglas’s book if you’ve read it.

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.
Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.
If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org.
Please pass the link on, subscribe, leave a review.
God bless, Malcolm
PS: If you would like some coaching in spiritual disciplines, look me up here.
PPS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

“Amazed!”, Acts 8.9-25

A sermon for the Watford Church of Christ

“What amazes you?”

  • The possibility of the amazing is what keeps us looking forward
  • The possibility of the amazing is what keeps us optimistic
  • The possibility of the amazing is what keeps us faithful
  • People who lose the possibility of the amazing lose the life for which they were designed

What helps and what gets in the way?
Some ideas from this passage…..Acts 8:9–25

Here’s the Acts8.9-25 Handout

Question: What is amazing in this passage?

1. Philip’s courage
2. John’s change, Luke 9:51–56
3.Stephen’s changes
4. Apostles’ calmness and imperturbability

Question: What stops us being amazed & amazing others about God?

  • When all said and done, it is not a what, but a who is amazing.
  • And one is more amazing that all others.
  • And he has inspired more amazing things than anyone who has ever lived.
  • Jesus is the most amazing person who ever lived

“The people were amazed at his teaching, … and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.” (Mark 1:22; 6:2; 7:37; 10:26; 11:18 NIV11)

How do we get the strength/courage? Matt 28.20
From presence and spirit of Jesus.

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.

Do you have a question about the Bible or the Christian faith? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions.

Thanks again for watching. Have a super day.

God bless,

Malcolm

“The Kingdom” Class 2

Lesson for the Thames Valley churches of Christ

“The kingdom of heaven is like….” (Matt 13.24; 31, 33, 44, 45, 45, 47, 18.23; 20.1; 22.2)

“The community or people ruled by God and with whom he dwells, to some extent reality now but to be fully consummated in the future”

Kingdom Class 2 Handout

The Kingdom Class 2 Slides

1. “Your kingdom come”

  1. Present with Jesus
    1. “..if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Matthew 12:28 NIV11)
    2. “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20)
    3. “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.” (Matthew 21:31 NIV11)
    4. Date:
  2. Coming soon
    1. “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:28 NIV11)
    2. ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.” (Luke 11:2 NIV11)
    3. Date:
  3. Coming in the future
    1. ““Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of  the world.” (Matthew 25:34)
    2. “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.” (Luke 13:28)
    3. Date:

2. The character of the kingdom

  • Question: “What does this parable tell you about the character of the kingdom? It’s values, it’s nature, it’s priorities?”
        • Parables: Matthew 13:24–30; 31–32; 33; 44; 45–46; 47–50; 18:23–35; 22:1–14; 24:51–25:13; 14–30; :31–46; Luke 18:15–17

Response

Thank you for watching this video. You can find more episodes on the YouTube site.

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.

Do you have a question about the Bible or the Christian faith? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send us your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org

Thanks again for watching. Have a super day.

God bless,

Malcolm

“The connection between the kingdom, peace and joy”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 57

What is the connection between the kingdom of the heavens, peace and joy?

I’m teaching a three-part series on the kingdom for the Thames Valley churches of Christ.  There’s no way I will do it justice, but I do hope to make it more relevant to myself and the congregation.  One of the kingdom verses which has given me the most pause to think and pray is Romans 14:17-18.

Here is Tom Wright’s translation:

“God’s kingdom, you see, isn’t about food and drink, but about justice, peace, and joy in the holy spirit. Anyone who serves the Messiah like this pleases God and deserves respect from other people.” (Romans 14:17–18)

Compare that translation with the NIV:

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.” (Romans 14:17–18 NIV11)

Finally, take a look at this translation by Dallas Willard:

“The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking [whether you do it in one way or in another] but is inner rightness and peace and joy sustained by the Holy Spirit. For those serving Christ in this way are well-pleasing to God and approved by men.”

The key phrase here for me, is “inner rightness”.  Far be it from me to criticise the NIV or Tom Wright, and I’m sure the translations are correct, but the Willard version emphasises the personal connection with Jesus. It is this personal connection which ensures our ability to experience the peace and joy of the Messiah.  It is he who gives us peace (John 14:27) and joy (John 15:11).  Why are we confident of this personal connection? Because Jesus promised, “I will be with you” Matthew 28:20.  Since we have the spirit of Christ, we can enjoy the fruits of that spirit (Rom 8.9; Gal 5.22).

As Willard says, “..the kingdom of the heavens, from the practical point of view in which we all must live, is simply our experience of Jesus’s continual interaction with us in history and throughout the days, hours, and moments of our earthly existence.” (The Divine Conspiracy)

Would you like more joy and peace?  Practice becoming more aware of the presence of Jesus. That is why we pray, and engage with spiritual disciplines. Not to make us “better”, but to make us more aware and thus more connected with the source of peace and joy. And the benefit? Why do we need to question the benefits of more peace and joy! But, we should also be aware that the fuller our experience of the peace and joy of the spirit, the more it will set us apart in this world as people who have something others need. Those with spiritual hunger will sit up and take notice.

The kingdom has many facets. But perhaps, practically, the most fundamental is the opportunity to avail ourselves of a supernatural peace and joy for which we were always designed.

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.

Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.

If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website.

Please pass the link on, subscribe, leave a review.

God bless, Malcolm

PS: If you would like some coaching in spiritual disciplines, look me up here.
PPS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool“, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

“How to have a harvest of joy”, Acts 8.1-8

A sermon for the Thames Valley churches of Christ

“How to have a harvest of joy”

“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.

Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralysed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.” (Acts 8:1–8 NIV11)

“God places the best things in life on the other side of terror”

Question: What examples of courage do you see in this passage?

  • Joy’s significance
    • “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” (Luke 2:10 NIV1)
    • “So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.” (Matthew 28:8 NIV11)
  • God is joyful; Jesus is full of joy; the Holy Spirit provides joy…
    • “At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” (Luke 10:21 NIV11)
    • “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,” (Romans 14:17 NIV11)
    • “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,” (Galatians 5:22 NIV11)
    • “You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Thess 1:6)
    • Therefore makes sense to pursue joy. How?

Questions

  • Where does courage comes from? Matthew 28.20.
  • What would living faithfully courageously look like in your life?
  • Where do you need more joy?

Three steps to faith-fuelled courage and joyful living:

  • Jesus
  • Open
  • Yes
  • People filled with joy attract others
  • A church filled with joy attracts others

“God places the best things in life on the other side of terror”

Here’s the PDF of the handout: Acts8.1-8 Handout TV

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.
Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.
If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org.
Please pass the link on, subscribe, leave a review.
God bless, Malcolm
PS: If you would like some coaching in spiritual disciplines, look me up here.
PPS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

“The Kingdom”: Class 1

A lesson for the Thames Valley churches of Christ

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.”
(Matthew 4:23 NIV11)

What is the Gospel?
Matthew 4:23
If Jesus talked about kingdom, so should we, and we should think about it.

1. What does the OT reveal?
Daniel 2:44
Daniel 7:13–14
Matt 28:17–20

2. What did Jesus say?
Mark 1:14–15
Luke 4:43
Dynamic
Luke 11:19–20
Focus
Character: Matthew 13:24
Imminence: Luke 9:27, Luke 9:61–62

3. What does it mean?
Theories
Purely personally internal
Future
The hour of a person’s decision
Mythical symbol
Present with / in Jesus
Kingdom present functioning as precursor to coming perfected kingdom
Acts 1:6
“The community or people ruled by God and with whom he dwells, to some extent reality now but to be fully consummated in the future”

4. When is it coming?
Luke 19:11
Luke 17:20–21
Matthew 12:28
Luke 1:32–33

5. How can I participate?
John 3:5

6. What should be my response?
Enjoy the abundant (eternal) life now
Receive kingdom / receive eternal life
Matthew 19:16
Matthew 19:23
John 5:24

Through death of self
Luke 18:17
Luke 9:23
Not self-centred denial
But, Christ-centred denial

Leading to eternal impact
Matthew 24:14
Message
Mission
Motive

Thank you for watching this video. You can find more episodes in our feed. Our web site is http://www.tvcoc.org.

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.

Do you have a question about the Bible or the Christian faith? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send us your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: tvcochrist@gmail.com.

Thanks again for watching. Have a super day.

God bless,

Malcolm

“Return to be refreshed”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 56

If you are watching the video you will notice that I am not my usual place to record today’s quiet time coaching episode. That’s because I felt called, drawn even, to go back to a place where I prayed regularly five years ago. I have just finished my prayer time there and wanted to share the experience with you.

Where did I go? I went to a viewpoint overlooking the Harrow area of north-west London. You can see all of North West and West London from this place. It’s a wonderful view. I used to come up here regularly to pray. Sometimes early in the morning, sometimes late at night when the lights were shining and the stars were twinkling.

Behind the car park for the viewpoint are some woods. The area is called Grimsdyke. I came here to pray 3, 4 or five times a week between 2000 and 2013. It became the most important prayer place for me during that time. I came up here with my dog in the sunshine, the rain, snow and whatever else the weather threw at us and we walked, and I prayed.

It’s five years since I was last here. It was so helpful today to reflect on all the lessons God has taught me the last five years. To realise that his disciplining hand has always been for my good. To celebrate his grace to me. My soul is refreshed.

Is there somewhere significant to you, that you could go back to and pray? Somewhere you haven’t been for a while. Perhaps a place where you used to worship, the location of your baptism into Christ, a regular former prayer spot or something similar?

I’m so glad I came here today. I am refreshed and ready for my Monday (I’m recording this on a Monday) and my week.

Have you returned to be refreshed? I would love to know your experiences.

Please leave a comment wherever you read or see or hear these recordings. Please leave it publicly because we learn best when the learn in community.

If you know someone who might benefit from these thoughts, please pass the link on to them.

If you’re listening to the podcast, please leave us a review. If you’re watching the video, please hit the like button and the subscribe button and then you will be notified when new recordings go online.

I pray that between now and the next time we see each other you will find great refreshment from being reminded what God has done in the last year, or five or ten of your life.

God bless, Malcolm

PS: If you would like some coaching in spiritual disciplines, look me up here.

PPS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

“Yertle the Turtle and King Jesus”

Sermon for the Thames Valley churches of Christ

What do you think it would be like to be king or queen?

Questions
What was the King Turtle’s problem?
What did he get wrong?
What did he forget? How did the others feel?
Was Jesus a king?
What kind of king was he?
What was he like as a king?

What did Jesus say about being “in charge”?

“Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,” (Matthew 20:26 NIV11)

How did Jesus become a king?

“They twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said.” (Matthew 27:29 NIV11)

We love Jesus because he is a king who died so we could live.
We follow him because he is a king who serves us.
His example inspires us to serve one another, to die to ourselves for the sake of others.

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.

Do you have a question about the Bible or the Christian faith? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions.

Thanks again for watching. Have a super day.

God bless,

Malcolm

“An arrow prayer for every day of the week”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 55

We lead busy lives. Sometimes we forget God’s presence, and we do not have opportunity for lengthy prayer. What to do?

Arrow prayers, pp319-323:
  • These can be a simple word, or a short phrase that is repeated throughout the day bringing remembrance to us that God is with us in all circumstances.
  • “Speak them inwardly and they will speak back to you all through the day’s changing circumstances. Because the words are so few and so simple, they help us to soar beyond language into the mystery of silence.
  • “One single grateful thought, raised to heaven, is a perfect prayer.“ Lessing, Minna Von Barnhelm, ii, 7.
  • “The simpler the prayer style, the easier it will be to bring the spirit of prayer into daily life.”
“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” (Matthew 6:7 NIV11)
I’ve come up with a different arrow prayer for each day of the week.
  • Monday: “Marvellous are your deeds, Lord” (Revelation 15:3 NIV11)
  • Tuesday: “I choose you, Lord”
  • Wednesday: “I worship you, Lord”
  • Thursday: “Thank you, Lord”
  • Friday: “Feed me, Lord”
  • Saturday: “Save me, Lord”
  • Sunday: “Sustain me, Lord”
Why not make up your own?
Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.
Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.
If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org.
Please pass the link on, subscribe, leave a review.
God bless, Malcolm
PS: If you would like some coaching in spiritual disciplines, look me up here
PPS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

“A meditation on the Lord’s prayer” by Balthasar Hubmaier

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 54

Balthasar Hubmaier was an Anabaptist leader who wrote this short meditation in 1526. Soon afterwards he was arrested, tortured and executed for his faith.

Our Father. Gracious Father, I am not worthy to be called a child of yours or that I should be able to call you my Father. I have not always done your will. I have often done the will of the Father of Lies. Forgive me, merciful Father, and make me a child of yours in the faith.

Who Art In Heaven. Father of goodness, look upon us, we who live in this miserable state of woe. We know that children cannot find a better condition than to be with their loving father, who feeds them, gives them drink, clothes them, protects them and shields them from all needs. Gracious Father, take us, your miserable children, to be with you in heaven.

Holy Is Your Name. Merciful Father, we know that we are guilty of continually dishonoring your name with our words and actions. The suffering of Christ, which for us is medicament for eternal life, we make into an eternal reproach by our cursing and rebuking. Forgive us, Father, and give us grace so that your name will never come from our mouths unprofitably. Help us to cease all blasphemy and swearing so that your holy name will eternally be glorified, enhanced and praised.

Your Kingdom Come. Gracious Father, we know that we are captives to sin, the devil, hell and eternal death. But Father, we cry out and call to you as our loving Father to come quickly with your kingdom of grace, peace, joy and eternal salvation. Come to our aid, gracious Father, for without you we are totally miserable, afflicted and lost.

Your Will Be Done On Earth As In Heaven. Good Father, we confess publicly that your fatherly will does not suit us earthly people. Our will is completely and totally hostile to your divine will. We ask you to send your Holy Spirit to work in us authentic faith, steadfast hope and ardent love, so that our will is conformed to your divine will in all things.

Give Us Today Our Daily Bread. Compassionate Father, we live not by bread alone, but by every word that comes from your holy mouth. Therefore, we humbly pray that you will feed us with the bread of your holy word. This is the bread of heaven, and whoever eats it will be eternally filled. Make it a living presence in our souls. Make it grow and bring forth fruits of eternal life. Give us diligent Christian workers who will spread this bread among us in pure, clear and untarnished manner so that your Fatherly will, which is known only from your word, will be fulfilled.

Forgive Us Our Debts As We Forgive Our Debtors. Kind Father, we know that we are guilty of having sinned in words, deeds and evil thoughts. We do not even know the number, portion or extent of our sins. Father, forgive us and give us power to better our way of living, even as we forgive those who have caused our suffering. Father, forgive them too, for they do not know what they are doing. Enlighten all those who misunderstand your holy word, who abuse and persecute us, so that they might come to the true way that leads to eternal life.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation. Heavenly Father! Look on the fear, barrenness, misery, persecution and hardship which we must endure here on earth, and ponder also our human weakness. For this reason, sweet Father, we ask of you, through your Fatherly love, that you do not forsake us in our anguish and suffering, that we not be defeated nor fall away from your holy word. Do not allow us to be tempted beyond that which we can endure. We are weak and frail, while our enemies are strong, powerful and heartless. You know these things, merciful Father.

Deliver Us From Evil. Deliver us from evil, from sin, from the devil, from our own lust, which is our greatest enemy. Deliver us from all that keeps us far from you. Moreover, give us all that brings us closer to you. For dominion, power and glory are yours forever in eternity.

Eternal Father, as we have prayed to you here, bring it to fulfilment according to your Fatherly good will. These things we pray through your mercy and through your gracious promises which you have given to us consistently through Moses, the prophets and the apostles. But we pray this especially, pleading with you, through your most beloved son, our Lord Jesus Christ. He has surely promised us, and proved it through his bitter death, that whatever we pray for in your name you will give us. Father, we place our bodies, lives, honour, possessions, soul and spirit into your hands. All that we have received from you we offer back to you, for you give and you take away. Praise be to your name. Amen and amen.

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.
Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.
If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org.
Please pass the link on, subscribe, leave a review.

God bless, Malcolm

PS: If you would like some coaching in spiritual disciplines, look me up here.
PPS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John